What did we learn from the George Zimmerman case? Being a vigilante is a dangerous hobby. Juvenile bravado can get you killed. Mark O’Mara is a hell of a defense attorney.
We also learned that the jury had no choice but to vote not guilty.
Mr. Zimmerman’s defense team was more masterful in presentation, more adept at storytelling and more effective in cross-examination. Three aspects of the defense’s case were in the fore: When Police Detective Chris Serino testified that he found no significant inconsistencies in Mr. Zimmerman’s statements to police, as Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night; when Mr. O’Mara mounted the life-size test dummy to demonstrate how Mr. Martin supposedly bashed Mr. Zimmerman’s head against the concrete, as Mr. Zimmerman claimed, and the most riveting — when Zimmerman neighbor John Good testified he’d seen a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man “just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style.”
Perhaps Mr. Zimmerman’s actions before that confrontation can be viewed through the prism of a syllogism, which usually is based on two connected premises.
In this case, a George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin Syllogism could go like this:
Premise A: Different groups of black teens dressing and acting in a certain way had been burglarizing apartments and homes in the neighborhood.
Premise B: Trayvon Martin was a black teen dressing and acting in that certain way.
Logical conclusion: Trayvon Martin was a logical source of suspicion.
Instead of racial profiling, perhaps Mr. Zimmerman was engaging in racial observation, from a syllogistic view.
There is a difference.
If Mr. Zimmerman were named “Smith” and black, would there be mass protests nationwide? No way.
Most black males in this country are killed by other black males within their own communities. Most of the assailants are between the ages of 15 and 34. Why aren’t the protesters marching about that from San Francisco to New York? If NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous employed even one-tenth of his unbridled passion and energy to black-on-black crime as he has to the Martin-Zimmerman case, perhaps we could accomplish something here. How about a more zealous Ben Jealous in Chicago?
Chicago is America’s new Vietnam. Check out these numbers from the four-day Fourth of July holiday. According to NBC Chicago, 72 people were shot, with 12 dead. That’s approximately 18 per day, mostly black. The joke in Chicago is “When you combine Chicago with Iraq, what do you get? Chiraq.”
Now, back to racial profiling …
Suppose a corporation took a racial survey of its key workers. The survey revealed that one important division within the corporation featured no black employees. Then the corporate CEO ordered internal hiring managers to find at least three black people to employ for staff diversification. Is that racial profiling? Or is it diversity? Are they one in the same? Is workplace racial profiling operating under the guise of diversity? Or is the word “diversity” simply a euphemism for racial profiling?
In each case, a certain racial group is being targeted. So what’s the difference?
Example No. 2: Washington D.C., like New York and Chicago, is a cab city. Taxis traverse the nation’s streets all hours, night and day, weekends, too. A cabdriver once told me that he refused to pick up any black male who appeared to be under the age of 30.
Why is that pivotal to this essay? Because that particular cabdriver was American-born black. He wasn’t African-born black or Middle Eastern, like so many other drivers. This guy was from Reidsville, N.C.
Why did he assume this stance? Because the taxi driver claimed he had been robbed multiple times, each time by young black dudes. Is that racial profiling? He is a perfect example in this sense: Anyone who thinks black folk don’t racially profile in this country is delusional.
Was that American-born black cabdriver engaging in racial profiling, or was he simply exercising his right to self-protection?
Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson admitted to racial profiling. The year was 1993. The reverend shocked the world when he made this statement on stereotyping: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
Perhaps ESPN broadcaster Stephen A. Smith got it right when he, on his television show on Monday, advised black males to adjust and adapt. “Take off that hoodie. . There is a responsibility that we have to have…I’m talking about my community. We have to have a responsibility where everything can’t be about being right. Sometimes it has to be about being smart …”
There’s one other thing: Knee-jerk critics who have compared Trayvon Martin to civil rights martyrs Emmett Till and Medgar Evers are disingenuous. But, then, we learned many disingenuous aspects about America during this case.
Gregory Clay is assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.